Call for Papers: Forms of Life in the Eighteenth Century

The Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University is pleased to announce the ninth Bloomington

Eighteenth-Century Workshop, to be held on May 12-14 2010. The workshop

is part of a series of annual interdisciplinary events that has been

running since 2002, with 12-15 scholars presenting and discussing papers

on a broad topic in a congenial setting.

Our topic for 2010 is “The Forms of Life.” We’d like to

consider the implications of the 18th-century debate about the nature of

life and the turn to vitalist proposals of an animating force,

broadening beyond the discourses of physiology and the natural sciences,

where many of these ideas originate, to consider their connections

elsewhere in the period. Why does the idea of a life force emerge (or

re-emerge) at this moment? How are living forms distinguished from each

other? What sorts of decisions create the hierarchies of animate forms

(and, for instance, what gets called “animal”)? Which lives matter and

which don’t? How might we reconsider eighteenth-century answers to

these questions in light of twenty-first-century rethinking of life and

animality? How is the line drawn distinguishing the living and the

non-living, animate being and thing? Participants might also consider

the implications of contemporary thinking about life for the discourse

of political economy, in its treatment of populations, masses,

collective life and the role of hunger in history and also for

developments in the religious sphere. One might also turn to the

numerous Pygmalionic fantasies of animation in art and criticism, from

“tableaux vivants,” illuminated statuary, life-like automata and still

lives to critical pronouncements on the living body as the highest

achievement of true art.

Papers might address topics such as:

–organisms and organization, self-organization

–animals and animation

–the life sciences and the social sciences

–the culture of sensibility and irritative physiology


–aesthetic and living form

–the “life” of the imagination

–competing notions of life

The workshop format will consist of focused discussion of

four to six papers a day, amid socializing and refreshment. The workshop

will draw both on the wide community of eighteenth-century scholars and

on those working in this field at Indiana University-Bloomington. The

workshop will cover most expenses of those scholars chosen to present

their work: accommodations, travel (up to a certain limit), and most meals.

We are asking for applications to be sent to us by Friday,

January 8, 2010. The application consists of a two-page description of

the proposed paper as well as a current brief CV (no longer than three

pages). Please email or send your application to Dr. Barbara Truesdell,

Weatherly Hall North, room 122, Bloomington, IN 47405, Telephone

812/855-2856, email [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>.

Papers will be selected by an interdisciplinary committee. All

submissions will be acknowledged by e-mail within a fortnight: if you

have not received an acknowledgment by Jan. 22, 2010, please contact

Barbara Truesdell or Dror Wahrman.

Further information can be found on our website,, or you can Find us on


For additional details and queries please contact the director of the

Center, Dror Wahrman, Dept. of History, Indiana University, Bloomington,

IN 47405, e-mail [email protected]mailto:dwahrman